Paying for the Privilege

A long time ago, when I was in my forties, I had a lot more creative energy than I do now. I’ve always had more imagination than I knew what to do with, but I no longer have as much energy as I need to do anything with it. Back then I could work on my fiction six, eight, or more hours a day. These days, if I get a full four hours in, I’m doing well. I also no longer have the strength to move refrigerators or pianos, as I did even seven years ago, and I don’t like carrying forty pound bags of kitty litter. This happens when you get older. Along with being startled by what you look like when you accidentally see yourself in a mirror.

But for my money, getting older is a good thing.

Someone once asked me, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be young again?” I told him that I wouldn’t mind having the strength, the endurance, even the hair of when I was younger, but there was no way I would trade in my experience just for the sake of youth. There are too many memories. There are too many mistakes I learned how to not make a second time. I acquired skills at being a writer which I will fight to the death to keep. Not to mention all the social skills, which I keep on practicing and improving.

So, no, I don’t want to be young again. I don’t like the physical deterioration, the loss of functions, the pains and aches. Who would? But there’s a price for everything. TANSTAFL, as Heinlein said — There’s no such thing as a free lunch. And I figure that bearing up under all consequences of aging is the price that I am more than willing to pay for the privilege of getting older.

And I intend to get a lot older yet.

4 Comments

  1. Being of a similar age, I agree with everything said here. I might add that this has been one of the most interesting periods of time to be alive. I read tons of science fiction as a kid, and now I’m living in a lot of the world from those books. Space travel was an idea for kooks when I first became enamored of it, and now we’ve walked on the moon. And it looks as though things will get more interesting still.

  2. You’ve put your finger on an important aspect of the question: we ponder “being young again” as though it meant “looking young again.” But being young means not having lived for all the years, and all the experiences, that come with age. Would I want to go through all that crap a second time, just to get rid of the stiffness I feel in my joints sometimes? I’m with you on your answer to that. While I can no longer lift heavy objects either, I can live without that ability for the sake of other things I’ve picked up along the way (one of which is the right to ask younger folk to carry heavy objects for me).

    The future we expected, however, is another matter. As Charles Platt once said to me, “I truly believed that, by now, I would be able to buy a commercial ticket to the moon.” (And he said that to me in 1993!) Well, looks like we’re not going, Charles. Sorry about that one.

    But we do have hand-held computing gadgets that can tell us almost anything known to humanity, that can put us in contact with almost anyone else, almost anywhere, and that can amuse, educate, and assist us in almost limitless ways. (In the ’80s, I worked alongside some phone company scientists who insisted that the numbers proved there would never be video-on-demand. Not only is that the only kind of video we watch now in my household, I can even get it on that hand-held computing gadget. There’s another one the futurists got wrong, but the writers saw it coming.)

    We never got the moonships, but we got a lot of other stuff. On the whole, we’ve done pretty well. And anyone my age or older got to see it as it happened, which no one after us ever will again. I saw Armstrong step off the LEM. I programmed an Apple II with my own hands. I watch television on a screen that’s about an inch thick, but wider than the one we used when my family gathered for slide shows when I was a kid, and what I watch is on-demand.

    More than anything, though, I got to see those things as they happened for the very first time. I do not believe the species will witness a technological revolution of this relative magnitude again. Only those of us who are alive and old enough today can tell anyone younger what experiencing that was like. The cost of that experience includes being the age we are.

    On the whole, it has been worth it.

    1. Thank you for that comment. It adds a lot to what I said, and I agree with your observations. There’s more than one way to see the benefits of getting older, aside from not dying, and those who have a similar point of view could add more to our thoughts.

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